When surveying a piece of visual art, do you know what exactly it is you’re looking for?
Assuming that you’re judging with what an expert might call “the untrained eye”, I suspect you’d go through the standard line of questioning that anyone else would. Do I like this? Does this interest me? Is this something I’d put on display in my home?
But have you ever taken in a painting, or a photograph or a sculpture and found yourself searching for deeper meaning? What does this represent? What is being said here?
Naturally, the answer to this question varies from person to person, and that’s largely the beauty of the process. If the primary function of the human brain is to make sense and give substance to the world around us, the observation of a creative work is that function stripped down to its most basic and primal form. Art serves to evoke emotion, so whether you’re browsing a collection in an art gallery, or simply scrolling down your Instagram timeline, chances are, at some point in your life, you’ll see something that moves you.
As I strolled around the preview of Houston Fine Arts Festival last week, I saw a lot of fascinating and thought-provoking pieces-----everything from large-scale oil paintings to sculptures meticulously crafted from Alaskan yellow cedar. And with almost every display I made eyes with, I made point to give pause and ponder: “What was the artist trying to do here? What does this mean?”
With due respect to the other artists, however, nothing I came across gave me more pause or consideration than Dan Tague’s exhibit, and in particular, his piece entitled Keep On Spending In The Free World, a high-resolution photograph of a message spelled out with nothing but folded bits of American currency.